By Branden Andersen
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The winter warmer holds a special place in the beer industry’s heart. While old-world breweries celebrated the passing of seasons with spring beers like saison and Maibock, the American beer industry instantly grabbed onto the winter seasonal as its golden child for rotational styles.
It all started with Anchor Brewing, which released its first Christmas Ale in 1975. Label artist Jim Stitt has been designing the labels since that year, drawing a different tree for each edition ranging from a California palm to a Douglas fir.
“We’ve always believed handmade beer deserves a handmade label,” an Anchor representative said in a promotional video. “So rather than running to the computer, we run to our friend Jim Stitt, a wonderful illustrator and wonderful watercolorist.”
The idea, according to an Anchor press release, is to keep the labels changing just like the beer inside the bottle. Each year, the brewers work off of a caramel and toast malt base while adding a different combination of hops and spices that they refuse to disclose to the public.
Anchor set the pace for the hundreds of breweries that popped up in the years that followed. Local breweries now hold on to their winter seasonals and build releases around them. 10 Barrel hosts Pray for Snow parties across the state to celebrate the release of their beer. Hopworks Urban Brewery’s Abominable Winter Ale’s bright blue monster cans and tap handles are seen around bars as a celebration of the season.
Possibly the most recognized and revered winter release in Oregon comes from Deschutes Brewing. They’ve brewed and bottled their winter seasonal Jubelale since opening their doors in 1988, with different labels wrapping each bottle. From 1988 to 1995, Bend local Ed Carson designed wreaths for the labels, updating them once every two years.
“Deschutes Brewery owner and founder, Gary Fish, and our graphic designer at the time, Ed Carson, came up with the idea to celebrate the beer and the holiday season,” explained Deschutes digital marketing manager Jason Randles, “and I guess you could say the rest is history.”
While Carson oversaw the Jubelale art project until 2003, he handed off the art reins to local artists.
“As Gary Fish likes to say, ‘Jubelale packaging is all about the art,’” recounted Randles. “It’s a fun project that celebrates the craft of brewing and art and brings them together in a real unique and festive way.”
This year, Central Oregon transplant Taylor Rose found her way into the discussion for Jubelale’s 2015 label, and quickly made her way to the top of the list.
“I figured there was a huge wait list,” Rose said. “I was just reaching out to see what I had to do to be included. They brought me in and started talking about the project, and it turned out I got the job.”
Randles said that Deschutes prioritizes Central Oregon artists, tasking them to create winter-themed art.
“It was very hands-off,” Rose said. “I sketched up my idea and they told me to go for it.”
Rose said her inspiration came from her newfound love of fly-fishing. Since moving to Bend from New Hampshire, she has been inspired by all of the outdoor recreation that the area has to offer and she incorporated that into her work.
“A friend took me out to the Crooked River to go fishing,” Rose said. “We didn’t get anything that time, but just being in the environment, I loved it.”
The Jubelale label, titled “First Tracks First Cast,” is a tribute to that memory and how inspired she has been by the Central Oregon outdoors. She used her fantasy-like style to portray an outdoor scene of a couple with their dog preparing to cast into a fish-filled river.
“We like the detail, vibrancy and playfulness of her work,” Randles said about Rose. “We’re always looking for something different from the previous year, whether that be style, medium or subject matter.”
The original art, which is hanging in Deschutes Brewery’s tasting room, took roughly 80 hours from start to finish. Rose said it’s the biggest project she’s ever done, and admires Deschutes for giving artists the opportunity.
“How awesome is it that Deschutes does this,” Rose said. “They gave me total creative freedom and make it all about the artist.”
Rose got the whole royal treatment, including her picture on Deschutes press releases and a poster-signing party at the pub as the art was revealed. Suddenly, Rose said she was recognized by locals. Besides that, her art was placed all around town, on six-pack carriers and boxes in the beer aisle.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.